Image Credit: Morgan Ortagus / Instagram
By Jon Styf [The Center Square] and The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
A bill that would require congressional candidates in Tennessee to live in the state for three years before running in a primary for a federal seat will become law without the signature of Gov. Bill Lee, however, the legislation will not achieve the goal of some Tennessee lawmakers to block the candidacy of one Trump-backed candidate.
Governor Lee returned the legislation to the General Assembly on Wednesday without a signature.
Lee’s spokeswoman, Casey Black, said “We feel the voters are best able to determine who should represent them in Congress.”
Due to the filing deadline for candidates in the District 5 Congressional race already having passed before the requirement became law, the new legislation will not apply to those candidates who met the deadline, according to election officials.
Julia Bruck, spokesperson for Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, said “The requirement does not apply retroactively to candidates who met the qualification deadline at noon on April 7.”
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The conclusion of Tennessee Election officials clears U.S. House of Representatives candidate Morgan Ortagus, backed by former President Donald Trump, to run in the primaries but according to GOP Chairman Scott Golden, challenges have been filed over the voting records of Ortagus, and two other District 5 candidates, Robby Starbuck and Baxter Lee.
Golden said those challenges would be settled by party officials no later than April 21st.
The bill is already the subject of a federal lawsuit from three Tennessee residents in the 5th Congressional District. They filed the lawsuit on behalf of Morgan Ortagus, who would have been disqualified from running in the Republican primary for the redrawn district.
Senate Bill 2616 passed the Senate on Feb. 28, and the House withdrew an amendment and passed the bill before sending it to Gov. Lee on April 1.
Ortagus, backed by former President Donald Trump, is the former spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State. The 5th Congressional District seat is opening up after current U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, said he will not run in the redrawn district.
The lawsuit claims states do not have the constitutional right to add qualifications for congressional candidates, citing a passage in the U.S. Constitution that states each house of the U.S. Congress will be the judge of qualifications for its members.
The lawsuit also cites the Constitution as saying the only qualifications are for the representative to be 25, a U.S. citizen for seven years and “when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”
On the other hand, supporters of the new rules argue the changes were needed in order to prevent transplants who don’t know the area from securing key political seats.
Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains-District 8), Senate sponsor of the bill said, “There are not many bills down here everybody agrees on like they have this one. All the Democrats voted for it. They said we’d rather have a Tennessee Republican than a carpetbagger Republican.”
About the Primary Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.